March 16. A tale of two universes

Somewhere on a planet far, far away, where many top-end vendors and their agents still live, things are growing a little queasy, a little uneasy. There are agents wandering lonely as clouds and in need of vigour transplants, wondering where their enthusiasm went (OK, they’re suffering from shock) while their vendors are having a Bex and a good lie down in the hope that things will have improved by the time they wake.

Back on planet earth, buyers look up and wonder where all the good properties have gone. They’re ready to pay fair prices (not last year’s), but there is little to excite them in what’s presently on offer.

The long view of the last three months at the top end is that’s it’s a desert. Almost no activity since Christmas; and that’s been brought about by real estate’s ’09 disease: lack of quality and choice.

It’s a malaise which continued through most top end auctions held over the weekend. Not a lot of quality and little choice, resulting in those which did sell selling at the lower end of price expectations.

Away from the top end, the pulse is strong. Things are thriving below $1 million with investors competing with first-home buyers who are comfortable with the interest rate prognosis and keen to buy before the grants are withdrawn. (It’s not our territory, but if we were advising them, we’d ask them to consult financial planners who may suggest they budget on interest rates rising by as much as 5% in the life of their loans and the employment market becoming even less certain.)

Meanwhile, under the radar, some top-end deals are still flying; but at treetop level.

It’s a Jane Austin market: marriages are happening, but there’s an amazing amount of pre nup going on. Transactions which are taking place are happening quietly, not quickly. Weeks can go by while vendors come to the realisation that the offer they have is the best they’ll get; and they either adjust their expectations or the endings are not always happy.

All a bit of a masked ball, really.

And when the masks do come off, will the buyers still be there?

(OK, in real estate there’s aways an exception to a rule: this weekend’s was a house in Alma Road, Camberwell, that sold off-market for nearly $5 million, which may be a record for a house to the east of Burke Road.)

Next weekend? There’s more choice and higher quality in prospect. Expect some marriages to be made.


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Bayside. Brighton: Some bleeding, not terminal.

Can you believe everything you read?

Yes. And no.

While it’s true it is Melbourne’s top end which has suffered most in the ’09 market (see DM, above), there’s still a lot of life in Brighton; especially at its very top end, where there’s never enough to go around.

If you have been watching auction results, you’ll have seen that the highest price Melbourne recorded over the weekend was the $4.6 million for 15 North Road, Brighton. What is not recorded is that the property last sold in April, 2007 (at near the height of the bubble) for $4.3 million. If this was a litmus test, it would suggest that values are holding. In fact of the 11 auctions scheduled in the Brighton/Brighton East area only three are yet to be sold.

What’s left?

23A Champion Street. It’s a well designed and built new town house which passed in at $1.9 million on a vendor bid but attracted a later offer of $1.95 million against a reserve of $2.25 million. A good property, but the price is optimistic in this location.

What’s not?

36 Lynch Street sold for $906,500 at a mortgagor in possession auction. It was bought early in ’07 for under $800,000 and sold in September that year for $1,250,000. The bubble burst, the value did not.

29 Tennyson Street, on the corner of Kinane Street, did not last long on the private sale market. Listed at an estimated $1.75 million, it sold within days for $1.81 million. Apparently land only, this represents a healthy $2800/sq m ($260/sq ft).

Elsewhere in Bayside …

11 The Avenue in Hampton sold before auction for $1,305,000

Tramway Parade in Beaumaris had mixed fortunes: a private sale at 92 Tramway Parade brought $1,201,000. Further down the street, 170 Tramway Parade was passed in on a vendor bid of $1.4 million; its reserve is $1.5 million.

Predictably, Elwood was busy: a total of 12 auctions and private sales. 11 of those sales were in the hot bracket between $300,000 and $650,000 with only one,  2 Dryden Street, in the very upper level for this area. A very well renovated and extended Victorian house, it sold for $1.93 million.

Bentleigh is having a minor boom. Its convenience and value translated into 11 auction and private sales (and nothing passed in). The cheapest property was at 3/16 Vickery Street at $315,000, the show stopper was 4 Ross Street, a private sale quoted at $1-1.08 million. An offer one hundred dollars over the bottom of the quote range was enough: it sold for $1,000,100.


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